For a long, long time this trip has been planned and repeatedly postponed or changed, but now we are in Entebbe in Uganda! (Zum deutschen Blog)
This post contains unpaid advertising. This trip was self-paid for and this report reflects my opinion exclusively. The flights are a prize from a competition by KLM, which does not affect my opinion. KLM did not request or expect a report. The post also contains affiliate links. If you buy something, you won´t pay more, but I receive a small commission, which helps to go on with my blog.
Planning of the trip
In 2019, I´ve won flights with KLM to Kigali in Rwanda, which I actually wanted to redeem in2020. Now, what came next, we all know. Nevertheless, I make plans and together with my husband Dirk and friends, we want to go to Rwanda for a few days in 2021 and then across the border to Uganda. Since the KLM first flies to Kigali from Amsterdam and then flies on to Entebbe, we want to get back there after our round trip and fly home. That´s the plan… A few weeks before the start of the trip, our flights are rebooked, as the flight days change. Good thing our local *agency is so flexible and can customize the tour, even though the permits for chimpanzee and gorilla tracking have long since been purchased.
Then we learn that it is no longer possible to travel overland across the Rwandan border to Uganda. So, we have to change our plans again. At this point, a big thank you to KLM, who were so flexible to switch our prize from flights to Kigali to flights to Entebbe!
Some facts about Uganda
With a tear in the eye, we say goodbye to the idea of exploring the small African country of Rwanda. For this, we now have more time for Uganda, which approx. is a third smaller than Germany and has about half as many inhabitants. Most of them under 25 years old. A large part is located at Lake Victoria, the second largest freshwater lake in the world and the largest lake in Africa. The lake alone is more than half the size of Uganda! Through the lower third of the country, the equator runs along. 56 tribes live in Uganda, all with their own language. So mostly Swahili and English are spoken and understood. All kids must go to school and should remain there for at least seven years.
Arriving in Entebbe
In the middle of the night we arrive in Entebbe, the largest airport in Uganda, which also serves the capital Kampala. Mandatory is a yellow fever vaccination, which must be uploaded as an .jpg in the E-Visa. (Attention: passport photo, yellow fever vaccination and passport copy may only be very few kb in size!) A maximum 120-hour PCR test must be presented on paper, but KLM requires a maximum of 72 hours, so we have to plan well here. These requirements may change at any time, so it is always advisable to take a look at the pages of the Federal Foreign Office, or the official sites in the country, you, my reader, may come from.
We have all been vaccinated against Covid-19 at least once and have also refreshed our rabies vaccinations. So we feel very safe here, because Uganda has no travel warning, i.e. for the return flight in 10 days we only need to show a negative PCR test. (But again, a short-term change is always possible!)
Joseph welcomes us
Joseph, our driver-guide is already waiting impatiently outside the airport for us. In the next few days, he will show us the beauties of his home country and guide us safely over the partly adventurous slopes.
We are dead tired and just want to sleep, so we drive straight to our first hotel, the “Lake Victoria Serena Hotel”, which unfortunately we can enjoy only for one night. There is nothing going on on the streets, because there is a nightly curfew, which does not apply to tourist trips to the hotel.
The Corona regulations are taken very seriously here. In the off-road vehicle, where we can also open the roof , we have to wear masks , of course also in the hotels. This will be controlled, as we will learn in a few days…
Lake Victoria Serena Hotel
Partly we drive along Lake Victoria, we can´t see it but can guess it.
In front of the hotel, we are greeted with disinfectant and a fever measurement and also our suitcases get a disinfection. Since Uganda has been confronted with highly contagious diseases such as Ebola for many years, the population knows how important hygiene, disinfection and masks can be.
The hotel is located in a kind of large park, as we can see when we open our curtains at 6am with the sun rising over the lake. The typical African soundscape with cicadas and birds songs fits wonderfully. It has a big swimming pool outside and a wellness and spa area and a work-out room, which we all can´t use as we start early.
A quick breakfast and we start at 8 o’clock, we have a good 350 km driving distance to cover. First, we go through the outskirts of Kampala. We are glad not to have to drive ourselves, because countless taxi motorcycles, trucks, shared taxis and also a few passenger vehicles drive crisscrossing the streets of the city. Hawkers, pedestrians, cyclists always in between and on the roadsides an unmissable amount of traders who present their goods in front of their doors.
What an incredibly colorful picture, plus the smells and voices, the rattling of the engines and the ubiquitous honking. This is Africa!
Through the country side
We are amazed, but we are still happy when the big city is behind us and we drive north on the then little used road. Green is the land! So very green! Can there be so many different shades of green? Everywhere we see fields, small, large, plantations. Rolling hills, plains. All green and fertile. No wonder, one of the two rainy seasons of the year is just coming to an end. From March to May is the first rainy season and then again from September to November. But as Joseph tells us, it has rained for almost a whole year and there have been floods. Here, too, climate change has arrived.
On the way we meet herds of cattle again and again, small, large and sometimes just someone who leads a goat, the whole property, on a leash, so that the animal can eat on the roadside. Particularly impressive are the Longhorn cattle, which are mostly herded by boys and graze peacefully on the side of the road. In between our (in Germany) well-known black and white cows.
Actually, we want to do rhino tracking on the way to Murchison Falls National Park, the largest protected park in Uganda, but as we learn, the animals are to be relocated and the Rhino Sanctuary is therefore not accessible. It’s a pity, but so we arrive quite early at the park entrance.
In Murchison Falls National Park
Normal procedure: measuring of temperature, disinfection, enter personal data and then we are allowed in. Immediately a gang of monkeys greets us on the very well-developed road. The baboons do not let themselves be disturbed by us, not even as we drive very slowly through the group and photograph them.
All the way to the famous Murchison Falls we see road builders preparing this road and make driving very comfortable.
Murchison Falls from above
Once above Murchison falls, we are already greeted by an incredible roar of the water masses. We are the only tourists and the only car in the large parking lot. The Victoria Nile plunges down 42 m, through a narrow, only 7 m wide rock crevice it has to squeeze and it does so with an incredible power! It is up to 300 cubic meters per second. This makes it by far not the highest waterfall but extremely impressive.
Soon we are completely soaked by the spray, but at temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius this is more a feeling of well-being! If you have a sensitive camera, you should protect it here very well. Also, applying insect repellent to the skin is not a bad idea, because here you´ll find the big TseTse flies. Although they do not transmit sleeping sickness here, but the stitches can hurt a lot. We protect ourselves with “Nosilife” clothing, which also works very well.
Short historical facts of the park
It is now after 4 p.m., i.e. the perfect time to see wildlife, because when it is no longer so hot, grazing or hunting takes place. On our way to the Pakuba Lodge, high above the White Nile, we drive on washed-out paths through a steppe landscape.
Herds of elephants, herds of giraffes. buffaloes and many waterbucks can be seen, and no one is afraid of our car. Sometimes we stand only a few meters next to them and can observe them in quiet.
During the time of Idi Amin and afterwards, the wild stocks had fallen dramatically due to poaching. Once the area here was very wild and was protected as early as 1910. Before the era of Idi Amin, there are said to have been over 14,000 elephants here, in 1990 only 250 had survived the slaughter. Of the 14,000 hippos, 1200 remained. And so it was for all other animal species. Many were exterminated, including rhinos.
Since there is tourism again, the animals get well protected again and partly resettled.
More about it in the next blog post.
Shortly before sunset, around 6.30 pm, we reach the Pakuba Lodge and see the sun ball disappear red over the White Nile in the distance.
The rooms at the Pakuba Lodge are large and the beds are of course covered with a mosquito net. Electricity is only available if the generator is running or if enough solar power is available.
We are received, as usual, with the hand sanitizer and temperature measurement, all people of course wear masks. The lodge is not fully booked, because tourists are hardly coming now, because of the pandemic. Everyone is all the happier that we are arriving. We are greeted very warmly with a cold juice and can choose our evening menu, which we enjoy very much after a refreshing shower.
A nice end to our first day in Uganda and we have already seen so much! I send a few pictures via WhatsApp to my son when Joseph excitedly joins us again and to tell us that a leopard has just creaped around his accommodation. Not unusual here and we are advised not to stroll through the garden or even to bathe in the pool at night. It is closed from 7 p.m., because also many waterbucks or warthogs roam through the compound and no one should get injured. All the employees pull out their flashlights to possibly see the glowing eyes of the big cat, but it is gone. A pity….
Since the Wi-Fi in the bar no longer works, we go to sleep, because tomorrow we leave exceedingly early for our first game drive.
What comes next?
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*local agency – you want to know more about it, just contact me!